Oct 25, 2012 Web Exclusive
Titus Andronicus has always had ambitions exceeding that of most punk bands. They're just as likely to make an album about a Civil War ship (The Monitor) as they are to write a song featuring a poop joke (the amazingly-titled "Still Life with Hot Deuce on Silver Platter"). Their music, at once shambling and epic, serves these dual purposes perfectly, and their first two albums were equal parts hilarious, angry, and soaring.
Their newest effort, Local Business, seems, in many ways, an effort to pare down and distill what it is that makes Titus Andronicus tick. Where The Monitor was filled with songs that took on a queasy tension before bursting into rousing, drink-along choruses, the songs on Business get right down to business—which makes the shorter songs seem longer and exhausting.
Business also pushes singer Patrick Stickles' voice into the limelight. On previous releases, he was partially shrouded by reverb (and a more casual delivery), but here, Stickles sounds like he actually cares about staying on melody. The album has a lusher sound, which doesn't work as well for Titus—this band shouldn't embrace a sterile, studio sound.
Fortunately, Business is filled with enough searing guitar hooks and drunken sing-along portions to almost overcome these shortcomings. The licks on "My Eating Disorder" are better than any blues-rock band this side of The Hold Steady, and it's easy to imagine a crowd shouting along with the album's opening line on "Ecce Homo": "Okay, I think by now we've established everything is inherently worthless." And just try to hear the opening to "Upon Viewing Oregon's Landscape with the Flood of Detritus" without a small desire to punch a hole in the wall from sheer exuberance.
Overall, Local Business isn't a bad album. In fact, it's a pretty good album. It just seems, well, minor compared to Titus Andronicus' previous efforts. It's a compliment to the band's outsized ambition that even an album of songs about meaninglessness and morality still stands as a lesser effort in the band's catalogue. (www.titusandronicus.net)
Author rating: 7/10
Average reader rating: 6/10